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Richard J. Shavelson, Olga Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia and Julián P. Mariño

A learning indicator may qualitatively describe a learning process, or, more often, quantitatively summarize an important aspect of learning with a single or composite statistic. A qualitative indicator might take the form of a flow chart generated from a ‘think aloud’ from a student explaining why there is a change of season, or a categorization of students’ explanations for why things sink and float. A quantitative indicator might be a measure of the change in a student’s performance over time or an estimate of a college’s value added to student learning. We sketch the broad field of learning performance indicators used internationally and quickly narrow our focus to indicators based on direct measures of learning as opposed to number of units completed, graduation rates, number of degrees earned, and students’ self-report. We include both direct behavioural indicators of performance from which learning is inferred (‘performance assessments’) as well as indicators of competencies predictive of real-world performance (‘competency assessments’). We argue that performance indicators of learning are delicate instruments, influenced by how learning is measured and modelled to produce the indicator and that a profile of multiple student learning indicators is needed to capture the complexity of measuring performance and learning.